the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.
If the above is the simple definition of feminism, the women marching across our country today — and indeed in major Western cities across the world — are not feminists in the true sense of the term. As many before me have asked without reply, what rights are there from which we as American women are restricted? Again perfectly manifesting the left’s inability to see irony in any of their deeds or words is the fact that they, as women, are being allowed to freely march in cities across our nation unrestrictedly, despite the fact that doing so greatly inconveniences many who simply wish to go about their day or earn a living unimpeded, and also alienates those of us who are secure enough in our ability to steer our own ships that we shun such efforts wholesale.
If this march was stirred because of fear of losing funding for programs such as planned parenthood — and I can think of no other single perceived women’s issue that was discussed during the campaigns — then these women are selfishly appropriating that as a singularly female issue, ignoring the fact that men, too, are offered services by PP, and only further highlighting the narcissistic vapidity of their effort. But why bother with an inconvenient truth when baseless hyperbole is so much more effective for their cause.
Also asked of those participating in and defending #womensmarch is why they do not apply similar zeal, resources and attention to the legally and culturally oppressed women in countries around the world who not only do not have the equivalent of something like planned parenthood, but who cannot even turn to authorities or even family members in the case of rape or assault because their societies are conditioned to immediately cast them as Jezebels who brought said offenses upon themselves. Freedom of speech for any sex is likewise illegal in many of these same countries, the combination thereof creating the most toxic environment possible for the most vulnerable amongst their populations. Yet my gender marches, shouts, cries and inspires celebrity outcries and support for an entirely imaginary lack of rights in our nation. Which brings me to this:
What exactly is it that Katy Perry, America Ferrera, Chrissie Teigen, Madonna, Julia Roberts and others who have more than ample resources do with their time when they are in other countries that has made them so willfully blind to true oppression of women? One not need go far to witness it, and quite contrarily, one would have to go somewhat out of their way to ignore it, even and perhaps especially in the finer hotels of that most frequent destination of left luvvies, London. I lived there for 8 years and go back almost every month; I saw a frightening example of it over the course of those 8 years and witnessed it again as recently in September of last year, and when I am reminded of it I am both frozen to the core and heartened by the fact that I am protected by the passport I carry, by grace of birth, which is a shield these women cannot employ.
For many years there was, on Upper Brook Street in London’s exclusive Mayfair, a shoe store run by one of the most strikingly beautiful women I have ever met. She was one of those who seemed to be more beautiful with age and when I was in my 20s and 30s, every time I saw her I would only think to myself that if I could have one-tenth of the grace and beauty then that she did in her late 40s, I would be one blessed individual. Her name was Shola, and she was Iranian; pure, beautiful Persian Iranian. She had translucent olive skin, dark almond hair and pale blue eyes, as many Persians do. She was mesmerizing, westernized, had killer taste in shoes, was extremely well-educated and worldly, and very matter of fact. My sister and I adored her. But if you were a frequent client and someone with whom she spoke fluently, if not freely, you could also sense that she was afraid. She would, on some visits, seem nervous and fidgety and as though she wanted us to leave quickly rather than spending what was sometimes a considerable amount of money in her shop. Other times she would be closed at odd hours, or even close while we were there, suddenly and without notice. Her eyes almost always darted around through the walls of windows of her shop, as though she was watching for someone or someone was watching her. We didn’t care; I think we both had an unspoken sense that continuing to support her with our custom was the best thing we could do for her.
As the years we interacted with her wore on, we learned only very sketchy details of her life. She had been married, but was no longer. She lived in an amazing flat in St. James that could have never been afforded by owning a shoe shop, even with the prices therein and success thereof. She had a daughter who looked like a younger carbon copy of her, but who was seriously afflicted by a depression which Shola seemed incapable of helping her to overcome. Shola, too, showed signs of a shadow that followed or trapped her, never seeming to own her life as we did ours.
One late afternoon, I was walking up Bond Street and came to the point of the pedestrian plaza with the bench that contains the statue of a man feeding pigeons, and I saw Shola buying flowers at a nearby stall, after which she went and sat on the bench. Just as I was about to walk up and say hello, a large middle-eastern man sat down next to her and grabbed her arm forcefully, speaking to her in the manner with which one scolds a misbehaving child. She almost immediately shed tears, but this evoked from him not a modicum of human empathy. Instead he stood, still holding her upper arm, and trying to masquerade his force as help, all but dragged her up Bond Street, she trying to reach into her bag and cover her face with her usual large, round sunglasses. I stood frozen for a period of time, worried for Shola and ashamed at what I had witnessed, helplessly.
I saw Shola very few times after that day. She was in her shop infrequently, and it was instead attended by a very unwelcoming “niece.” On the rare occasion that Shola was there, she was a hollow presence and bore little semblance to her former self. My range of thoughts and emotions ran the gamut from concerned to horrified, curious to thankfully distant.
I moved to Hong Kong about 18 months later, and would frequently come back to London and stay in our favorite place, not far from Shola’s store. The first time I was back, I was so excited to go and see her that I had all but forgotten how she was when we left all those months prior. I walked in expecting to see her curious, knowing face, but was instead greeted by the same haughty — and by now rude — niece, who informed me that Shola had been ill for an extended period of time following the suicide of her beloved daughter. As a mother myself, I felt ill and could not conceive the pain this must have caused the paradoxically strong, yet vulnerable woman we had come to know (as much as we could).
Only three months later, I returned again to London and once again — hoping that Shola’s extended absence might have ended and that I could extend my condolences — went to visit her shop, except this time was far more jarring than anything theretofore. Instead of the unwelcoming niece, there were two younger women in hijabs, albeit with Western clothes, who at first pretended not to speak English when I enquired as to Shola’s whereabouts (in Mayfair. Running a shop). I suppose because of my disbelieving reaction combined with my obvious familiarity with the shop, one of them began speaking in what can best be described as forceful English, at which time two very stern looking men emerged from the spiral staircase that led to the basement where Shola had always kept extra stock, all four of them now staring at me as though I were the most intrusive of infidels. The message was clear — you need to leave, little Western girl, as you are no longer welcome here.
I walked back to my hotel more rattled than I had been the day I witnessed Shola being reprimanded on, and dragged away from that bench. Unable to resist my need to have an answer, I stopped by the concierge desk which is staffed by people we consider to be like family, and asked them if they knew what had become of Shola, they all being aware of the bond my sis and I had enjoyed with her over the years. I was told, as bluntly as can be and yet without any indication of conviction that indicated they believed it anymore than I did that she, too, had taken her own life. I do not know still today whether she is in fact dead, in Iran or something else entirely.
That was 2006. In September of 2016, I was back in that same familiar hotel. August and September in London are full of wealthy Middle Easterners who flee there to escape the oppressive heat in their homelands, and often in doing so bring all of their belongings, both material and human, with them, along with their long outmoded and otherwise unwelcome values. Our hotel often has entire floors taken over for a singular family of such provenance so as to avoid breakdown of their traditions; suites are transformed into dining spaces for the women, while other rooms act as mutual meeting spaces for accompanied interaction between the sexes. It can be quite intimidating when, on your morning run, you are zipping down the wide, carpeted staircase with your headphones on in your tight Lululemon attire and suddenly come face to face with one of the mountain like men who are posted guard at the top of the staircase for such a floor. I keep going, unapologetically, but cannot help but be stirred to thought by the differences in freedom enjoyed by me versus the women who are just on the other side of the door outside which these men stand guard.
Yet in all of our years of experiencing the cultural importation that occurs each year, I had never had the experience I did last September. I had been out for a walk in Mayfair on what was a beautifully perfect autumn day and — because I had been put on the top floor of the hotel — took the private side lift rather than walk up the staircase, having already been out for a number of hours, and being a bit laden with shopping. As I went to step onto the small lift, I saw in front of me a woman in full niqab who was likely around my age, with her two young daughters who were as yet to reach the age of being required to wear similar garments. As soon as she saw me, bushy blonde hair and all, she quickly lifted her left finger to her lips in the universal sign for “shush.” Not knowing how to take this, I started to back off of the lift, at which point her teenage daughter said, “no, please” and to which her mother furiously motioned for me to come in. The old doors of that lift close slowly, and as we stood there silent, I could hear men calling out in Arabic, not harshly, but as though they were waiting for someone. As the doors opened again only one floor higher on the mezzanine level, her younger daughter said something about “mezzanine” in return to them, I suppose indicating they would get off on the mezzanine level and walk down to the lobby, which only confused me more. The teenage daughter held the “open” button for a few seconds as her mother and her younger sister exited, her mother saying, “bye, bye” to me repeatedly and waving to me excitedly as they did so, but the teenage girl remained.
Even with only her eyes exposed, this was a very beautiful woman, and outstanding second only to her beauty or the closeness with her daughters was what must have been close to a 20 carat diamond on the ring finger of the left hand she had lifted to quiet me. Now as I was left alone with her teenage daughter, I noticed that she was carrying an Hermes Birkin bag and was adorned with jewelry the likes of which most people never even see, let alone touch. I could not understand why she was still on the lift with me, and as she quite openly sized me up and down, was growing a bit uneasy with the situation. When we finally reached the top floor and I began to exit, the girl gently touched my arm and said in clear English, “my mother would like to talk to you. She never has occasion to talk to Western women, but we have seen you a few times in the hotel and you seem familiar to all the staff, so she has chosen you. Please consider it.”
Consider it I did, then and now, but I never did accept. I was leaving the next morning and spent the night wrestling between my absolute curiosity and my reticence at being followed to my room by a burly man-mountain like the one who was waiting for them in the lobby. Plus, she never told me how to accept the offer, though I’m certain I could’ve simply asked who had taken the entire third floor and who the woman was with a rock the size of baseball on her hand, but likely the message would have been intercepted and could have meant even more restrictions on her movement while in the city.
People think they have seen wealth until they experience this level of it, close up as we do almost every year. But regardless of wealth, these women are not rich; they are merely existing in gilded cages that were cast with oil and the culture of oppression. Shola and this woman could escape their countries, but not their status as captives by virtue of their birth as women in countries that offer no rights, no choices, no options.
Even if the Katy Perrys and Chrissie Teigens of the world have never experienced this, or have conveniently closed their eyes to it, it happens here, too. The most frightening export of these countries is their ideology in all its various forms, and that includes their view of women as possessions. I’ve been called a stupid whore by a taxi driver in D.C. because I accidentally used the wrong credit card. I’ve been called a stupid fucking whore by a man in the Atlanta airport because whereas I missed my connection to Hong Kong because of weather, he had lost the wheel of his cheap suitcase and thought that he was, by rights, allowed to break in front of me as I was literally standing at, and leaning on the airline counter, already well engaged in my conversation with the airline’s staff. If these men speak to us like this in our own country, how do they treat their wives, daughters and sisters when protected by the laws and customs of their homelands?
Even men who do dare to speak out on behalf of women in countries like Saudi Arabia are jailed for doing so ( http://bit.ly/2j8481M ), the culture being so entrenched there and throughout the Muslim world. Yet today in America, we have more than 200,000 women, including afore-mentioned celebrities, marching for what? Raising money for what? Speaking out against what?
I hope their “effort” isn’t publicized in the more oppressive countries, because it if is, I can only imagine the utter disappointment and discouragement of the women there who have no choice, and who live in hope that someday their destinies will change, and who hold onto a belief that their sisters in the West will support them in their struggle. Instead of helping, they are all but mocking them with their right to wear stupid pink pussy hats and rage against an imaginary anti-woman machine. Pussies indeed, all of them, and hypocritical ones at that.
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